Vampire's SoulJoey W. Hill
Loss left them only rage.
Until they found each other...
Cai doesn't want to be with anyone. He doesn't want a damn servant, he doesn't want to be associated with damn vampires. Rand just wants to forget his human side, stay in his wolf form, and find a satisfying--hopefully violent--way to bring it all to an end.
But when a young female vampire's life is at stake, the Vampire Council drafts Cai to enter a dark world he never wanted to visit again. Rand is too honorable to let him go alone, and the only way that can work is if he's Cai's fully marked servant, bound to the vampire for all eternity.
So fate decides these two lost souls need each other. Even if they have to tear each other apart to figure it out.
A Vampire Queen Series Novel
Joey W Hill
Copyright (c) 2017 Joey W. Hill
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Cover design by W. Scott Hill
SWP Digital & Print Edition publication September 2017
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Story Witch Press, 6823 Neuhoff Lane, Charlotte NC 28269.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher's permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author's imagination and used fictitiously.
The publisher and author(s) acknowledge the trademark status and trademark ownership of all trademarks, service marks and word marks mentioned in this book.
The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers. Reader discretion is advised.
Digital ISBN: 978-1-942122-63-0
Print ISBN: 978-1-942122-64-7
Ready for More?
About the Author
Also by Joey W. Hill
As usual, I can't express enough how my critique partners' suggestions improve a book, every single time. The occasional random typo, timeline or continuity error might drive me crazy when I catch it post-publishing (despite multiple and laborious editing rounds). However, a far bigger issue to me is when the story or characters don't reach their potential because I missed a way to make them stronger, more exciting or thought-provoking.
Without my critique partners, I would miss a lot of those opportunities. Sometimes the writing process very much reflects the saying, "She missed the forest for the trees."
So thank you, Vampire Soul editing and inspiration team: Judy, Lauren, Debi, Sheri, Angela, Shi and Donna. The same way vital touches make a house a home, you all helped make Cai and Rand's book into a story. And an extra thanks to those who kept after me for a story with a wolf shifter hero. Here it is - at last!
Author Note: Cai and Rand were introduced in Night's Templar. While at that time it was clear they intended to have their own book, unfortunately when characters appear earlier than their own story, an author can box herself into things the muse wishes to take in a different direction. Therefore, apologies in advance for any discrepancies between their presentation in Night's Templar and here. We tried to reconcile the two versions and stay out of those troublesome waters, so I hope the attempts to do so will amuse, please, or pass unnoticed - but not disrupt your enjoyment of the story.
Something was wrong.
Cai paused. No stars in the sky tonight, no moon. Heavy cloud cover and he could smell the weight of a storm brewing within it. He hoped it was a violent one, with thunder that vibrated through the ground, as lightning split the sky and rain lashed the earth. The forest creatures would take shelter while he would stand in its fury, defy heaven or hell to show their fucking selves and bring the fight to him. There was no stillness or peace in pain. Only the din of violence drowned out everything else.
Yeah, I'm in a bitch of a mood. Which only happened on days that ended in y. He frowned. What the hell day was it? Wednesday? What did it matter? In the wilds he preferred, time was about day or night, winter or summer.
It wasn't like he had a dinner date or a dentist appointment. Hey doc, polish up the fangs for me. Come close, let me hear that bass drum beat in your throat. His eyes half shut as the thought bumped up his hunger.
About time to feed again. Last time, he'd swallowed his distaste for more human-populated areas to forage in the nearest town, about twenty-five miles away. That had been nearly a month ago. Within the past several weeks, no hiker or hunter had unwisely yet conveniently chosen to be out this deep alone when he needed blood. Another meal was due.
He drew in a deep breath, taking in the heat. In the mountains of West Virginia, it was closing in on fall, but summer's heat was lingering. The day's warmth still lay heavy on everything. A storm might cool things off. In a couple of ways.
He turned, his brow creasing. It was more than the impending storm, within and without. Something really was off. Wrong. Someone else's pain, a vibration of it so strong it thrummed through his nerves, tightened his gut. Empathy wasn't big on his list of personality traits, but curiosity was another matter. Paying attention often brought opportunity.
Following instinct, he cut off the deer path and moved, silent and swift, through the thick woods, emerging onto a more beaten track. Hunters used it most often, scouting out deer and other game, depending on the season. Dropping to his heels, Cai cocked his head, his senses open and sharp. He worried the rough sides and steel point of his one prosthetic fang with his tongue, an unconscious habit.
Then he scented human, and the still attached and very real fang on the other side of his mouth lengthened.
One, alone. His lips curved in a grim smile. Dinner had delivered itself.
He rose and moved without sound through the woods. While hunting, nothing would escape his notice, from the shift of a squirrel in her nest twenty feet above his head, to the rasp of a snake moving over the earth before it glided into creek water, splitting the water currents with its twisting body.
It didn't take long. With his speed, he closed in on his prey fast. He normally didn't prolong the stalking phase of things. He had no interest in playing that game. But as he perched in the crotch of a tree and studied his meal, he realized the hunter, his rifle at the ready and with night vision goggles in place, was following something.
A blood trail. It came to Cai with the wind shift and expl
ained why the hunter was still out after dark. It was illegal for him to hunt then, but apparently what he'd shot had gotten away and he was willing to bend the law to ensure he hadn't left something injured. Cai could respect that. When he got ready to kill this guy, he'd give him the same consideration.
That didn't say anything about his own respectability. He made all his kills fast. While he knew vampires who liked toying with their prey, because they claimed the fear and suffering gave the blood an extra kick, he guessed he had a blander palate. He had no more interest in tormenting his prey than a human would his Domino's pizza.
To stay within the bounds of hunting regs, the hunter had to have made his shot by a certain time before sundown. The target had led him on a good chase. It wasn't like Cai needed to be up on West Virginia hunting regulations, but the last time he'd taken a hunter, the man had had a copy of the manual in his pack. Cai had whiled away some time reading. It would have been nicer if the guy had had a thriller or mystery tucked in the multiple pockets, but you took what you could get out here. And he'd been carrying some Skittles, which had been a tasty dessert.
The hunter Cai was following stopped. He raised the rifle, not to shoot, but to look through the scope. Abandoning stealth, he whistled and straightened. "Fucking hell. You're not a bear. Holy shit." His deep voice was tinged with excitement. "Can't fucking believe it. A wolf in West Virginia. Look at the size of you, you beautiful son of a bitch."
The wind picked up, and Cai stiffened. That wrongness, a wall of it, impacted him like a baseball bat trying to hit a home run with his jaw. The blood he was smelling wasn't human. Nor vampire. Wolf smell for certain. But he'd smelled wolf before and this had something else to it.
Something he couldn't identify, which meant it had to be something the human hunter would consider myth, and Cai had never encountered.
Cai eased forward until he could see the small clearing where the man had emerged, and what had caused his anticipation. He was no more than five feet from the man, but the human's attention was riveted on his prey. Cai didn't blame him. His gaze went there, too.
The dark form was as large as a fully grown black bear, which explained why the hunter had mistaken him for one. Now, though, the creature's head was arched back, so the triangular shape of the ears and the long nose were visible, as well as the bushy tail, limply curved along the bumpy earth. The wolf was black with only a spare peppering of silver and brown strands around his face and ruff. He was a piece of the night himself.
But Cai could see in darkness as well as he could in light. Better, in some ways, because the body's energy was more distinguishable to him. The animal throbbed with a miasma of pain. When life was about to end, a being projected fear, pain. Adrenaline. Sometimes a brief flash of anger. Or resignation.
What he felt from this creature was different. There was pain, yes, but no fear. Only rage. The hunter thought the wolf was dead because he wasn't moving. But his chest wasn't rising and falling because the wolf was taking measured, shallow breaths, to fool his tracker.
The hunter was about to become the hunted, and he didn't even know it.
Cai settled back into the foliage to watch. Who passed up dinner and a show for the same price?
The hunter approached cautiously, proving he knew his trade, and poked the wolf sharply with the muzzle of the gun, still holding it in a ready position. The body gave limply, no movement.
"The guys aren't going to freaking believe this. A wolf. Where'd you come from, buddy? Think if I take you to the wildlife cops, they'd let me keep your pelt? Yeah, right." He snorted to himself. "Well, far as they and everyone else knew, wolves are extinct in these parts. My guess is you escaped from a roadside zoo. But you look too damn healthy for that."
The hunter straightened and considered the motionless creature. "Man, you are a beauty. I'll stretch my girl out on your fur in front of a fire this winter and she'll love the way it feels against all her pretty skin. Going to be a bitch to get you back to the truck, though. I'll have to use my Boy Scout training and make a litter."
Yeah, keep talking. The more he talked, the more motionless the wolf became. Humans couldn't see how dense energy became with a self-imposed stillness, that waiting to strike. But a vampire could. It was as clear to Cai as if the wolf was tying a napkin around his neck and picking up a fork and spoon, like Sylvester getting ready to dine on Tweety.
Wolves were smart, but not that smart. And they weren't this large either, particularly in a state where the species was thought to be gone, hunted to extinction decades ago.
Since vampires were so much faster and stronger than humans, an ignorant mortal would consider them magical beings. However, aside from varying levels of hypnotic compulsion skills, which suggested they were distant cousins to the python genus, most vampires didn't have any more ability to manipulate and command energy than the average human did.
Cai had a few more tools in his arsenal than the typical vampire--something he wasn't about to share with anyone other than himself--but he didn't need them for this. Vampires might not be able to do magic, but because they left their senses far more open to other world energies than Joe Human, their sharp senses wouldn't miss the wave of it Cai sensed now.
Cai wasn't sure what the wolf's deal was, but it posed no immediate challenge to him, so he'd hang around and satisfy his curiosity. Plus, the wolf could do the work of taking down his meal, before Cai embraced the challenge of taking it from him.
The hunter set his rifle aside, leaning it against a tree, and started to scout for branches to put the litter together. That was when the wolf lunged from the ground.
He sprang like a mountain lion from his resting position, impressing Cai with the power of the move. But the concussion of energy that rippled outward from the wolf told Cai how much effort it took. Magic or not, the beast was wounded. Blood had matted and soaked the fur on his haunch, leaving a muddy puddle beneath him. The bullet wound was a serious injury. Perhaps fatal out here.
It wasn't stopping him.
He was large enough that his paws landed on the hunter's shoulders as he slammed into his back, throwing him to the ground. The hunter let out a surprised shout, but he was no lightweight. He'd drawn a knife to cut branches, and he had his arm up to take the brunt of the wolf's first bite as he managed to flip and sought the wolf's unprotected side with the knife. The first strike hit the ribs and glanced off, though it tore flesh. The wolf took his own trophy, eliciting a scream as his powerful jaws snapped the bone and ripped out a chunk of flesh. He pulled back, shoved his great head under the male's now useless arm, and went for the throat.
Cai had seen wolf packs bring down deer. It was a remarkable, coordinated effort, but it wasn't pretty, because the dance to stay clear of thrashing hoofs and antlers, combined with the use of teeth as the only killing weapon, didn't make a fast, clean kill possible.
This was an ugly struggle of mere seconds. The wolf laid open the throat all the way to the cervical column. The man's death throes were short, his soul light blinking out like a popped bulb.
Well, hell. Cai preferred the carotid because the blood taste there was best. He couldn't have that now, obviously, but he was going to have to move fast if he wanted the benefit of any of it. The guy was oozing blood like a boat with a bucket-sized hole. Plus, if Cai was feeding from a corpse, it wasn't going to be over ten minutes dead. After that, the blood was like consuming days-old rotted food.
Cai emerged from his cover. The wolf sprang up and around, standing over the body, teeth bared and eyes glowing like gold embers. Blood spray from the hunter zigzagged over his face and ruff, but plenty of blood elsewhere wasn't the hunter's. The man's blade had found a couple new entry points, because blood was dripping onto the ground with the animal's movements. The wolf was also favoring the injured back leg, clawed toes curled and barely brushing the ground.
Cai obligingly bared his own fangs at the display of aggression. "That's my dinner, bitch. You're probably going to die an
yway, so get the hell away from it. Go find a place to lick your wounds. I don't want to hurt you."
The wolf's lip lifted as the rumble in his throat became full-volume thunder. His expression was clear. You and what army, motherfucker?
The wolf was badly enough injured he probably wasn't hungry. It was the principle of the thing. His kill, no one else's. Cai could respect that opinion. What could he say? He respected the hunter, he respected the wolf. He was a respectful kind of guy. But he had no intention of being denied what he wanted.
The wolf's rage was cocked and ready to go, and Cai also understood that feeling. He didn't usually find it in an animal, because animals didn't waste time on manifesting their baggage the way humanoids did. Attack was all about prey or fear. Sometimes play.
This wolf wasn't in a playful mood. He'd let a hunter believe he was tracking him, and he'd set him up. Now he was ready to take on Cai over rights to feed that he wasn't likely to live long enough to enjoy. Even now, he was starting to sway.
That groundswell of energy hit Cai again. Natural magic, what Cai considered just a fancy word for energy use beyond the physical limits of the body. It put him on guard, though, because he still couldn't identify it. His gaze darted around the clearing while he kept the bulk of his attention on the wolf, in case he decided to spring at Cai as he had with the hunter.
Instead, the wolf sank to an elbow, slowly, visibly fighting the compulsion. Then he was literally knocked to his side by those forces Cai couldn't see. His head arched back and a strangled howl tore from his throat. He was struggling against something, with a determined ferocity that told Cai it might be harder to take his dinner from the wolf than he'd anticipated.
Cai drew closer, and the wolf's eyes focused on him, crazed, despairing. Furious. Cai stopped. One of the two golden eyes was now blue. Cobalt blue, with a dark ring around it that enhanced the size of the pupil. The other iris stayed sunlight gold. Then both eyes closed and the animal convulsed, body rippling as if water moved under the skin. Cai heard the crack of bone and the wolf snarled, pain and frustration.